By His Example
The Wit and Wisdom of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
London, June, 1999
Walking These Streets again after so many years, I see you here all over the place, Gurudas: browbeating Michael-X and his goons to move their stuff from the flat so that we can move our stuff in; Mr Charm himself, chatting up Mr. French till he actually convinces himself that the heavy thumping through his walls at 4 A.M. just COULDN'T be our kirtan; double-talking the guard at the Ambassador's gate while we whisk inside to crash his party. . . . You were our Stalwart, the guy who always did the stuff the rest of us didn't have the guts for, with that raw, New York courage, right in their faces. But with a heart of gold, you were our fellow prankster, ridiculous in that unpressed, yellow-gray bed sheet, master of histrionics -- sometimes the buffoon - dispenser of comic relief for the pangs of our struggles.
What a team we were in those days, Gurudas! Yourself: and rock-hard (ready to weep at the drop of a sloka), fixed-up Yamuna-devi dasi, my childhood friend; and Mukunda (now Maharaja), musician exraordinaire, our laidback Paragon, whose Perry Como-like balance kept us afloat through many a stormy session; and his wife, Janaki, who brought passion and tension to the mix; and dear, outspoken Malati, busy as a bee, and baby Saraswati for cute and awe, our reminder of original purity; the London Yatra -- together, we pulled off a monster for our Spiritual Master!
"How did you guys do it?" youngsters ask me now. And you know, as I and all the others know who were so blessed by Srila Prabhupada, the secret was and always will be: We simply followed His Example -- he who touched us, talked and wrote and phoned to us, SHOWED us by his actions life's highest form of happiness -- Serving Krishna at The Edge.
In "Swamiji" we witnessed, and interacted with, an extraordinary person; not afraid of anything, willing to risk it all -- someone who never made a mistake, someone who in every circumstance was happy and self-contained, unaffected and at ease. And Hey! We were not so easy to convince -- in those days of chaos in the streets, the nights of instant-everything -- that a Perfect Man could walk this earth, A Hero for the Age! No. But that he spent so much of his precious time for us, that's the wonder: to lead us little by little, holding our hands at first, then turning forward and boldly striding ahead, stopping, glancing back from time to time, till we were right behind, tucked into his slipstream, into his rhythm, rocketing along in his footfalls. . . .
Now, he said, you fly off alone. I am there, don't fear -- just as I told you, do as I do, dare all to dance at The Edge for Krishna. "In this manner you will see Krishna; He must personally come to help you when he sees His devotee take so much trouble on His behalf. He must personally come."
And didn't we see that! How hindrance after obstacle was swept off by some swift, bluish, movement, right before our eyes, how problems insurmountable dissolved. (Was that a flute I heard above the traffic's roar?) At The Edge we saw Krishna's love for Srila Prabhupada force Him repeatedly to come to our aid, to kick into place an event or a thing or a person: to favor the stage for Prabhupada's work.
His Example was charming -- and angry as hell; simplicity itself -- and as complex as the universe; effortless to follow -- and like walking through knee-deep, wet concrete. Prabhupada was everything, an endless, unpredictable variety of everything, but what remained as constant was his unfailing sense of humor and his unchallenged, absolute knowledge: His Wit and His Wisdom. You hit it right on the head, Gurudas.
You were Srila Prabhupada's friend, and a good one at that, the foil and perfect vehicle to reciprocate with him your own grasp of deep meaning in the parable and homily -- your own developed sense of the absurd in his slapstick and his jokes.
You of all of Prabhupada's servants remember him in a very special manner. The little vignettes (the universe on the edge of a pin, the hilarity in a misplaced word), so quickly perishable in a mind like mine, stuck to your brain cells like glue -- and now you've given them to the Vaishnava Devotees forever. Thank you, Gurudas, for bringing Srila Prabhupada back to us in this book.
(*Click here for more information about Gurudas & how to order a copy of "By His Example.")